Thursday, November 01, 2012

FSD Intern's Story- When Humanity Meets Fashion

A recent participant has turned his experience in community development into a long-term career goal. Kappes Chatfield, an intern in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua is mixing his principles of sustainable social philanthropy with a small clothing company he runs with two friends.

The clothing company is called ‘Give Tanks,’ and was started by Kappes and two college roommates, Mikael and Mark. Their idea was hatched last year as they brainstormed how to mix their personal humanitarian dreams with a product they loved and intentions they admired. They settled on the idea of selling tank tops with images that remind people to be ‘tankful’ for the little things in life. A full quarter of the profits were to go towards community-based development programs in overlooked communities around the world. As Mikael stated, “Give thanks for the little things. Give back. Tank tops. Give tanks! Could the universe have possibly scripted it any more awesomely than that?”

While starting any business is hard, starting a business that incorporates international philanthropy can be especially challenging. Gaining familiarity with the issues of a community—and of community partners—is arguably the most important part of the development process. Luckily, Kappes had traveled to Ciudad Sandino several times before and had worked with the Fenix Foundation. This prompted his decision to work with Fenix again during a FSD Internship in Nicaragua this Summer. He arrived in Ciudad Sandino in June and taught an empowerment class through creative writing and the basics of filmmaking. For Kappes, this experience has greatly influenced the future of Give Tanks’ philanthropy, stating “FSD has shown me how much sustainable development benefits communities, and ever since my internship we knew that we wanted to expose this method of service to the rest of the world.”

At the end of his internship, Kappes collaborated with his business partners, Mikael and Mark, for a service project funded by a portion of Give Tanks’ profits from the past six months. They allocated $2,500 for their projects, which funded a microfinance start-up of local dressmakers who plan on making affordable school uniforms for children, and supplied a local library in Ciudad Sandino with a new fan, paint, and 83 new books.

During his time with Fenix, Kappes made it clear to his bosses that he had a passion for skateboarding--and believed it could be used as a tool of community development and empowerment. Fenix already intended to create a skatepark on their property, and wanted to bring Kappes in to help. Together, Give Tanks and the Fenix Foundation have developed a project to construct the Give Tanks BMX/Skate Park for the Arts. This park would succeed at both giving at-risk youth a valuable alternative to drugs and gang life and increasing Fenix's recognition and positive influence among the city youth. Income generated from this park through regional competitions, equipment rentals, and the sale of homegrown fruits and vegetables will not only help sustain the park, but help to subsidize start-up Fenix Art Programs such as dance, music, painting and crafts. It’s especially heartening when our interns can combine development projects with their own passions and goals. If you would like more information on Give Tanks, the Fenix Foundation, or their progress on the BMX/Skate Park, take a look at this video.

Join their movement and become a part of the conversation on Facebook. Support their efforts and ‘give tanks’ yourself by checking out the colorful, innovative designs on their website.

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